The importance of white matter (WM) injury to stroke pathology has been underestimated in experimental animal models and this may have contributed to the failure to translate potential therapeutics into the stroke clinic. Histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors are neuroprotective and also promote neurogenesis. These properties make them ideal candidates for stroke therapy. In a pure WM tract (isolated mouse optic nerve), we show that pan- and class I-specific HDAC inhibitors, administered before or after a period of oxygen and glucose deprivation (OGD), promote functional recovery of axons and preserve WM cellular architecture. This protection correlates with the upregulation of an astrocyte glutamate transporter, delayed and reduced glutamate accumulation during OGD, preservation of axonal mitochondria and oligodendrocytes, and maintenance of ATP levels. Interestingly, the expression of HDACs 1, 2, and 3 is localized to astrocytes, suggesting that changes in glial cell gene transcription and/or protein acetylation may confer protection to axons. Our findings suggest that a therapeutic opportunity exists for the use of HDAC inhibitors, targeting mitochondrial energy regulation and excitotoxicity in ischemic WM injury.
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